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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Okiemockbird The Purpose of Copyright (76* d) RE: 'The Purpose of Copyright' 11 Feb 00

Frank is right: the "outputs" (pardon my use of computer jargon) of the creative process are also its "inputs". Paul Lewis, in a recent New York Times article, put it this way: "Shakespeare was great at writing plays, but lousy at inventing plots. So he borrowed them." (New York Times, Jan 8, 2000, page A17.) In fact Shakespeare sometimes "borrowed" more than plots. The Archbishop's speech in Henry V, for example, copies whole phrases from the report of the speech in Holinshed's Chronicles. Under today's laws, Shakespeare might have had to pay.

Copyright is supposed to balance the interests involved by lasting long enough to provide "reasonable recompense and encouragement" (James Madison's phrase) on the one hand, and expiring soon enough so that the living generation is not overly burdened by paying feudal dues to the heirs of past creators. If the law errs, it should err on the side of the public which is supposed to be its primary beneficiary. But few of the changes in copyright law in my lifetime have paid more than lip-service to the public interest.


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